ELNORA — In the first game of the post-Nick Crays era, the North Daviess boys basketball team debuted a dominant interior attack.
The Cougars (1-0) defeated Washington Catholic (1-1) 82-25 in their home opener Saturday evening at the Cougar Den behind a a big night from the front line of Zach Moore, Austin Buehler and Kelby Byrer.
After losing productive seniors Nick Crays and Wes Lengacher to graduation, the Cougars changed up what had been a strong outside shooting team to become a physical team on the inside.
The three-headed monster down on the block for the Cougars combined for 43 points and 17 rebounds. For North Daviess coach Brent Dalrymple, this philosophy of parking two bigs in the paint at once is an entirely new concept as he kicks off his 14th season in Elnora.
"I told our kids in the locker room after the game, we're going to be the biggest team on the floor each and every game this year and we have to utilize that to our advantage," Dalrymple said. "There are many ways to utilize them — just throwing it to them down on the block and also when other people give help taking what the defense gives you. We have been concentrating on that and is something that is totally different from any team I've ever coached here."
The Cougars ran out to a 14-6 lead after the first quarter behind four points apiece from Buehler and guard Alex Wittmer. In the second quarter, the Cougars extended the lead to 32-11 at halftime and outscored the Cardinals 27-10 in the third as the front line began to flex its collective muscles.
"We started to figure some things out," Dalrymple said. "There are different ways defensively to play the pick and roll and the post. We kind of figured some things out defensively and we started putting more pressure on them and got a few more turnovers. We got in a rhythm and figured out where people would go. In game one, you're going to have to find those different things that worked for you. We have talked to the seniors and said we will only have six or seven kids on the floor — you guys are going to have to figure this stuff out."
Washington Catholic was without junior Armando Ramirez with a shoulder injury, according to coach John Howell. Ramirez pulled down 11 rebounds in the season opening win over Lighthouse Christian Nov. 25 at the Bird Cage. The Cardinals don't have any player on the roster taller than 6'3. That being said, Howell was disappointed in the performance he got from his kids on both ends of the floor.
"A little disappointed tonight," Howell said. "Certain things we might as well get used to — we're going to be outsized all year. We have to do a better job of getting bodies on people and being stronger about going up to get the ball. Second thing, in the first half we were very soft with the ball on the offensive end. We didn't execute very well in either half, we didn't make them work very hard on defense. We went one shot or turned it over. Some things we can fix, we just have to get back to work."
Dalrymple said he has been watching more and more college basketball games as he scouts how certain offenses enter the ball into the post and how he can better prepare his team for what lies ahead. The Cougars host Shoals Friday before a matchup Saturday night against 3A Washington at the Hatchet House.
"Early in December, yeah you scout your opponent, but you only worry about yourself," Dalrymple said. "We'll be able to pick enough things out of this film that we need to get better with. We'll know personnel better, we were kind of guessing out there today. We want to continue to get better each and every day."
On the outside, Dusten Cook and Alex Wittmer combined for 31 points and four 3-pointers. Dalrymple said the impact of those two to hit shots from the perimeter will be important as the team starts to deal with the option of team doubling on Buehler, Moore and Byrer on the block.
"We have major confidence in those two — they're players — they have worked hard their entire careers to be out on that varsity floor," Dalrymple said. "We expect big things from them."